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Super Bowl

Super Bowl Alert: So Long Big-Game Ads, We Won't Miss Many of You

By Published on .

Credit: Paul Schutzer/Getty, Dodge

It's like the day after a spoiled kid's birthday: Following weeks of anticipation and talk, gifts have been opened and now half are destined for returns.

For the most part, this year's crop of Super Bowl ads were, as predicted, especially boring. Few advertisers were willing to take big risks for fear of backlash, and while that means we won't remember many of these commercials in the weeks to come (and neither will any ad Halls of Fame), given how Dodge Ram's night turned out, maybe marketers were better off sticking with the tried-and-true.

Ram ran a spot narrated by Martin Luther King Jr.'s "The Drum Major Instinct" speech, which he delivered on Feb. 4, 1968, exactly 50 year's from the Super Bowl LII telecast. The commercial came under heavy scrutiny immediately after it aired, with critics lambasting the automaker for using MLK's words to sell trucks. More so, a part of his speech (which parent Fiat Chrysler left out of the ad) actually denounced consumerism.

Here's an excerpt on his take on advertising:

You know, those gentlemen of massive verbal persuasion. And they have a way of saying things to you that kind of gets you into buying. In order to be a man of distinction, you must drink this whiskey. In order to make your neighbors envious, you must drive this type of car. In order to be lovely to love you must wear this kind of lipstick or this kind of perfume. And you know, before you know it, you're just buying that stuff. That's the way the advertisers do it...

Fiat Chrysler Automobile defended the commercial, saying it worked in collaboration with MLK's estate on the spot, E.J. Schultz has more.

Pepsi, for one, must have been thanking its lucky stars that it was Ram being hit with criticism this time around. The beverage giant played it safe following the now infamous Kendall Jenner ad with a commercial that highlighted some of its past Super Bowl creative (Cindy Crawford reprised her role; viewers also got a brief cameo by the DeLorean from "Back to the Future.") Other brands playing it safe included Groupon, with a very obvious football-to-the-groin joke, M&M's with some predictable slapstick humor and Pringles, which didn't deliver on the "Wow" it promised (and kept insisting on throughout the spot).

It does look like the Super Bowl once again pulled in big ratings for NBC. While only preliminary data has been released thus far, we can expect the network to average well north of 100 million viewers once deliveries are adjusted for time zones, though it will likely fall short of the 111 million who tuned in to Super Bowl LI, Anthony Crupi reports.

But NBC's broadcast of the game didn't go quite that seamlessly. At one point during the game, screens went black and audio cut out/ (This reporter thought the cable went out.) It was a long 20 to 30 seconds, for sure.

According to an NBC spokesman: "We had a brief equipment failure that we quickly resolved. No game action or commercial time were missed." So what, exactly, did we miss?

The blackout did present an opportunity for brands to have some fun on Twitter. Tide tweeted: "Clean clothes are still clean in the dark. If it's clean it's a #TideAd," while Doritos asked, "Why you gotta keep us in the dark like that @NBC? #blackout #superbowl."

Still none of these efforts topped the now iconic Oreo's tweet "you can still dunk in the dark," during the Super Bowl blackout of 2013.

Drum roll please:

And the overall winner of Ad Age's first-ever Super Bowl ranking with Morning Consult, measuring not only the entertainment value of the commercials but also the effectiveness, is Amazon Alexa. Its commercial, which featured a cast of celebrities including Gordon Ramsey, Rebel Wilson, Cardi B and Sir Anthony Hopkins stepping up when Alexa loses her voice, also won USA Today's Ad Meter. And there was even a fun cameo by CEO Jeff Bezos.

As Ad Age editor Brian Braiker put it in his ad review, "The most surprising thing about this ad full of surprises is that Jeff Bezos has a decently compelling screen presence and can actually sort of act." (Here's Ad Age's full review of the ads that ran Sunday night.)

But the most effective ad of the night according to Ad Age's ranking belongs to Tide, whose best showing on the USA Today poll was No. 16. And Tide was certainly a big winner, especially on social media. The Procter & Gamble detergent ran four spots starring David Harbour, known to some from Netflix's "Stranger Things," summoning stereotypical big-ad tropes like the Old Spice Guy and Clydesdales. The meta-ad was a hit with celebrities. Danica Patrick tweeting "Have I been in a #Tidead this whole time?" and Betty White said "That time I was in a #TideAd and didn't even know it!"

You can re-watch all the Super Bowl commercials here.

I've been closely following how women were depicted in Super Bowl ads amid the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. Final tally: There were 41 male celebrities that appeared in the ads compared with just 12 female celebrities.

Those cord-cutters who tried to watch the Super Bowl streaming through other outlets like Hulu's live TV service experienced a fair share of hiccups. As the Verge reported, some Hulu subscribers lost service right at the end of the game.

And here's a look at some analysis of Super Bowl commercials from our friends:

Adweek gave a thumbs down to the Wendy's ad attacking McDonald's and had a similar mediocre feeling about Pepsi's "This Is the Pepsi" spot. But it gave a thumbs up to M&M's ad starring Danny DeVito as well as Hyundai's commercial promoting its work fighting pediatric cancer.

Variety's Brian Steinberg analyzes why Super Bowl advertisers stuck with entertaining viewers rather than prophesizing on politics.

Digiday's brand winners include Janet Jackson, with #JanetJacksonAppreciationDay trending before Justin Timberlake halftime return for the first time since the infamous "wardrobe malfunction." HQ Trivia also saw two million people tune in to its halftime game where it said it would give away $20,000. The trivia app ran a commercial during the pre-game show that it apparently got for free, at least according to Bloomberg.

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